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Protecting our environment through innovation

By Edmond Alphandery | | Updated: 2013-07-22 17:25

Whilst discussing the global environmental outlook on CO2 emissions and climate change, it can be difficult to give a positive viewpoint.

As progress is being made in renewable energy, investments into other key technologies are beginning to struggle. Public investment in research and development and pilot projects has decreased by more than 30 percent compared to R&D in the 1980s.

Protecting our environment through innovation

Edmond Alphandery, director general on-duty of IEEPA Consultative Council, chairman of the Euro50 group

And still, whilst the energy technologies for climate mitigation are becoming more popular, energy production from fossil fuels remains the dominant source and is continuing to grow; even in Europe which has started importing coal from the US.

There has been a shale gas revolution in North America. Through the depression of world coal prices and wider use as it is exported away from the US, shale gas is having a negative impact outside of the United States of America. For the first time in three years, the price of coal has fallen to $100 per ton. Surprisingly, coal fired power stations are continuing to be constructed in Europe as the price of carbon drops and gas fired power plants are decommissioned. Conversely, European industrialists are fearful about the competitiveness of shale gas in the United States.

The continually increasing trend in the use of fossil fuels for global energy production is set to carry on well into the future. Not surprisingly in the International Energy Agency's report on "Energy technology perspective 2012", "the window of opportunity is closing rapidly for achieving the IEA +2 degrees Celsius scenario: the lack of progress in clean energy is alarming".

I am not very optimistic; however, I do agree that investing in clean energy can bring great benefits.

Firstly, as explained by the IEA, I believe that investing in clean energy makes sense. It has estimated that every dollar invested can generate 3 dollars in future fuel saving by 2050.

In its report on "sustainable low carbon city development in China", the World Bank adds that residing in a low carbon city leads to more livable and more competitive cities.

According to the World Bank "The good news is that action to achieve both globally relevant carbon emission reduction and local sustainable development are closely aligned".

But in order to face the huge challenges ahead to reduce CO2 emissions, I suggest that the issue as a whole needs addressing, in terms of supply and demand, to encourage green technologies and behaviors that "optimize the entire system".

It is necessary to simultaneously act to optimize demand through smart grids, while reducing losses by improving electricity transmission lines, and by stimulating co-generation (simultaneous production of steam and electricity) and greener sources of energy. Public support on the R&D and pilot projects is also vital along the road. The IEA believe that such approaches could "unlock economic benefits".

In order to act proactively to global warming, I stress that stakeholders must be decisive with new technologies.

In this respect, particular attention must be paid to low carbon electricity, which is key for a significant reduction in carbon emissions across the industry, transport and building sectors.

According to the IEA, the emissions related to a kilowatt-hour could be reduced by 80 percent by 2050 through technology.

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